IHH head Bülent Yildirim aboard the Mavi Marmara, holding a young child. He said children
were brought along to prevent Israel from attacking the ships (IHH website, May 30 2010).
1. As of the afternoon of May 30, five ships were located near Cyprus and had not yet set sail for the Gaza Strip. The sixth boat, Challenger II, which belongs to the Free Gaza flotilla and carries 14 members of European parliaments, was expected to join the five ships between Cyprus and Gaza (Gulf News, UAE, May 29). Technical problems delayed some of the ships, which were forced to return to their home ports (Press TV website, May 29). Claims were also raised that the Cypriote government was putting obstacles in the flotilla’s path: the ships were prevented from entering Cyprus’ territorial waters and European parliament members were not allowed to board (Al-Jazeera TV, May 29, 2010).
The Challenger II, apparently part of the Free Gaza flotilla. Its passengers were moved to
the Mavi Marmara. It is apparently flying an American flag (IHH website, May 30, 2010).
2. Since the flotilla began its preparations to set sail from Cyprus, IHH, the dominant Turkish organization behind the campaign, has used its website to broadcast live streaming video of the events.1 The broadcasts are mostly interviews with passengers. At 13:30 hours on Sunday, May 30, IHH head Bülent Yildirim was interviewed on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. He was holding a small child at the time. He said that children had been brought aboard the ships as another means of preventing Israel from attacking. In our assessment, the children will be exploited for propaganda and to deter Israeli security forces from attacking the activist passengers.
3. Yildirim said at a press conference held aboard the Mavi Marmara that the flotilla’s organizers were in no hurry to set sail and that they were waiting for "the right time,” and perhaps in the meantime "Israel will think logically.” As to a possible confrontation with Israel, he said that the youngest passenger was a one year old boy and that there were elderly people in their 80s. He also said that while their resistance would be nonviolent, they would not allow Israeli soldiers to board the ships (IHH official website, May 29, 2010). The flotilla’s organizers said they wanted the confrontation to take place during the day so that the media could document it for global distribution (Al-Jazeera TV, May 29; interview on the IHH open channel, May 30, 2010).
4. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas continues its preparations to receive the flotilla. Baha al-Gha, director of the port authority in the de facto Hamas administration, said the goods would be transferred via floats with a surface area of 100 square meters (about 120 square yards). He said the ships would come as close to the shore as possible, at a point where the sea was 8.5 meters (9.3 yards) deep, where the cargo would be unloaded to the floats. Fishing boards would then drag them from the open sea into the port (Al-Mustaqbal website, May 26, 2010).
5. Muhammad Khalaf, interior ministry representative, said that the security services had formulated a plan to secure the flotilla, and to that end an operations room had been set up. He also said that the port of Gaza would be completely closed to visitors (Al-Aqsa TV, May 29, 2010). On May 28 the security services of the Hamas administration conducted an exercise in the port in preparation for receiving the flotilla; dozens of policemen participated (Website of the Hamas administration’s information office, May 28, 2010).
Hamas security services carry out a naval exercise in preparation for receiving the flotilla
(Hamas’ Palestine-info website, May 26, 2010).
6. The de facto Hamas administration plans to dispatch 100 boats to receive the flotilla on the high seas. On board there will be lawmen, jurists and family members of prisoners serving time in Israeli jails. They will wave the flags of the countries participating in the flotilla (Ma’an News Agency, May 29, 2010). Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil said that once preparations had been completed a large demonstration would take place in Gaza port, which would officially open to receive the ships. He said that the Hamas administration had appointed a committee, among whose members were several ministers, and they would receive the visitors and the aid, which would be distributed to the residents of the Gaza Strip (Al-Yawm Al-Saba’a, May 29, 2010).
7. Hamas figures expressed hope that the flotilla would reach the Gaza Strip and warned Israel not to harm it:
A. Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, gave a festive speech in honor of the port’s opening, in which he said that he hoped the ships would lift the "siege” of the Gaza Strip, and called on the Palestinians to organize a mass activity to receive the visitors (Al-Jazeera TV, May 29, 2010).
B. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, said that Israel would pay a higher price by opposing the flotilla than it would if the ships entered the Gaza Strip. He also said that those in charge of the flotilla would lodge international protests if Israel tried to harm the ships (Al-Bayan Center website, May 29, 2010).
1 For further information about IHH, see the May 26, 2010 bulletin, "IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation. Besides its legitimate philanthropic activities, it supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas, and at least in the past, even global jihad elements”